“There are no winners” – stated an exasperated President Obama as he signed the bill that ended the 16-day partial government shutdown. Although Obama admonished his political adversaries, the government of China received an underlying message too. As Washington floundered to come to an accord on breaking the economic deadlock, Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, smelled blood. Often regarded as the official mouthpiece of the China’s communist government, Xinhua published an astringent commentary last week calling for a “de-Americanized world.”
Strenuous effort notwithstanding, the author’s claim to rid America of the global leadership is somewhat contradictory. Perhaps, it is the reason why such an alarming call can easily be discounted not only in Washington but also in Beijing as well. China watcher Peter Lee penned a dismissive account of the author’s role at Xinhua, “The offending piece in Xinhua was not an editorial, and not an op-ed; it was a signed commentary by one ‘Xinhua writer Liu Chang.’ It seems that Liu (if that’s his/her real name) has written occasionally on US finance and represents Xinhua’s contribution to the near universal trend to inject bloggy goodness into mainstream journalism. This article is probably the most recent sign of the apocalypse: not the Gotterdammerung of the US-debt fueled fiscal firestorm, but the Global Times-ization of the Xinhua web presence.”
“Emerging from the bloodshed of the Second World War as the world’s most powerful nation, the United States has since then been trying to build a global empire by imposing a postwar world order, fueling recovery in Europe, and encouraging regime-change in nations that it deems hardly Washington-friendly,” argued Liu Chang. Thus, the writer displayed somewhat a poor historical knowledge. The United States, it could be argued, was already a major world power long before the Second World War. It is the United States involvement in the Second World War that turned it into a wider war. The unfortunate bloodshed in the war brought no fortune for America and the rest of the world; nor was it the culmination of any Machiavellian American foreign policy.
However, it can be argued correctly that the United States gained financially from the war in that the United States became Europe’s only significant trading partner and benefited as such. America did fortify its superpower status significantly in the postwar bi-polar world that followed, with the Soviet Union on one side and the United States on the other side of the conflict.
In contrast, modern China’s expression of interest to emerge as a regional power lies in its relations to its neighbors, which can oftentimes turn hostile. China became entangled with Taiwan, Tibet and India due to its quest for territorial expansion and it also bullied through coercive means its South-East Asian neighbors. Namely the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam and even tiny Brunei over territorial disputes. This only attests to China’s hegemonic behavior.
Which is why; when Xinhua argues that “the United States has declared that it has vital national interests to protect in nearly every corner of the globe, and been habituated to meddling in the business of other countries and regions far away from its shores,” the precarious Chinese forthrightness is obvious. In fact, China is still in no position to lecture the United States in such a vitriolic way. Keeping aside some of American mistakes in its foreign policy; the US has always been the leading force to offer solutions to some of the most perplexing issues of our time. Bringing Myanmar back into the international fold is one of such achievements. China supported the military regime in Myanmar to prevent democracy. It has also forged an entente with pariah states like North Korea and others that routinely brutalize their own people.
The United States has been involved in covert missions - either running prisons in foreign countries or spying on world leaders. At the same time, it is the ‘freedom of speech’ sacredly enshrined in the US constitution that guides much of US foreign policy. As a result, the president of the United States often is seen as offering apologies to other world leaders on past US misdeeds. This is a stark contrast to the Chinese.
Most importantly, the commentary in Xinhua demands a new alternative to the US dollar in addition to the introduction of new financial regulations, which is, in one sense, expected to undermine the American position as the world’s leading economic power. The irony is that the article fails to draw any solid conclusion. The Xinhua piece goes on to argue, “…an effective reform is the introduction of a new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant U.S. dollar, so that the international community could permanently stay away from the spillover of the intensifying domestic political turmoil in the United States.” However, the international community, with the exception of a country like Venezuela, has yet to express such an interest in bypassing the USD. There is still no effective international currency that can replace the USD.
In the entire article, the author uses a passive voice when expressing that something should be done about American influence. It seems he still believes no country can fulfill global tasks or be engaged in global affairs on the same level as the United States. Furthermore, no Chinese intention to shoulder any global responsibilities has been offered. Considering complex political equations, it would be prudent for China to cooperate with the United States on a number of global fronts. Even if the communist leadership has a modicum of faith in President Obama’s assurance that America will “bounce back,” that will prove to be enough. Because the United States is still a global leader not only in financial management but also in innovations this further helps both the United States and China.